Athlete of the Month – December 2014
Canada’s Ashley Brzozowicz has been part of the Canadian women’s eight since 2006 and has competed internationally ever since, almost without interruption. During this time, she raced at two Olympic Games, won an Olympic silver medal and three World Championship silvers. She began rowing while at prep school in the United States and then continued at Yale University before returning to Canada to make the national team. For her consistent results and longevity in the sport, Brzozowicz has been selected as World Rowing’s Athlete of the Month for December 2014.
World Rowing: You first began rowing when studying at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, USA. What drew you to the sport?
Ashley Brzozowicz: One of my friends in high school had started rowing and she thought I might like it. From the very first time I tried it, I knew she was right. It was the first (and perhaps only) sport in which I have ever felt I could really be competitive. I think it is the perfect combination of teamwork, endurance and skill.
WR: You later went on to row at Yale University, also in the USA. What were some of the highlights of your time rowing there?
AB: For me, rowing at Yale opened my eyes to my potential in the sport. I loved the team atmosphere, the dedication to excellence and motivation of my classmates both on the water and in the classroom. As far as racing goes, the highlight of my university rowing career was coming second at the 2004 NCAA Rowing Championships.
WR: What prompted you to move back to Canada?
AB: I moved back to Canada from New York City where I was working because I wanted to try training with the senior national team. I had been on a couple of under-23 teams while at Yale and I had gotten a taste of international racing but I was curious to see how far I could go. I wanted to train full-time and push myself to new limits. I knew I had a chance at making the team and I did not want to miss the opportunity. I don't know if I even believed that I would make it to an Olympic Games when I moved to the training centre but I knew that the journey had to start somewhere.
WR: Have your years of experience in the Canadian women’s eight given you a special role in the boat
AB: I think every member of the eight has a special role. We each bring our unique strengths to the boat and that is what makes us internationally competitive. My individual experience on the team gives me perspective and confidence in the process which helps me train and compete at my best.
WR: How would you describe your 2014 rowing season?
AB: The 2014 season was a return to competition for me. I took most of the 2013 season off after the London Games and enjoyed getting back into training in 2014. I was fortunate to be able to race at all three World Cups and at the World Championships in Amsterdam. It was a good season overall and I think the past year has set our team up well to make improvements as we go into the year of the Olympic Qualification Regatta.
WR: Are you a full-time athlete?
AB: I am very fortunate to train full-time. I do some speaking engagements through the Royal Bank of Canada's Olympian Programme but for the most part I am focused on training.
WR: What is a typical day like at present?
AB: At the moment, our lake is not quite frozen so we are getting out on the water most days. Of course, rowing at this time of the year in London, Ontario is largely weather dependent. We start with a morning session on the water, a break for recovery and nutrition and then another session on the water. In the afternoon, we head to the gym for some strength training. Our schedule varies from day to day and we also have sessions where we cross-train, row on the erg and/or do core strength and stretching.
WR: How do you train during the cold winter months?
AB: We spend a good amount of time training indoors on rowing machines and at the gym during the winter months. If the conditions are right, we take the opportunity to train outside on cross-country skis. This year the team is also travelling south to Florida to get some time on the water while our lake at home is frozen.
WR: What is your favourite post-training snack/meal?
AB: Eggs and toast or Greek yogurt with berries.
WR: What do you do outside of rowing (hobbies/studies/work)?
AB: To be honest, not a whole lot. I enjoy reading, growing vegetables, studying nutrition and spending time with my family.
WR: What are your next rowing goals?
AB: To qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and then push to the top of the podium in Rio.
WR: How do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
AB: Ten years from now I'd like to have a family and perhaps be working as a massage therapist focusing on treating athletes.